Freshwater Nongame Fish Defintion

Freshwater nongame fish are any freshwater fish species not classified as game fish.

General Information

Nongame Fishing Devices and Permits

  • Nongame fish may be taken with any lawful nongame fishing device or hook and line.
  • A fisherman is limited to using four rods and reels unless fishing from a boat, where an unlimited number of rods and reels are permitted if all occupants 16 years and older possess valid fishing licenses.
  • Nongame fishing permits and tags are available exclusively from SCDNR. Applications can be obtained online at or by calling 803-734-4DNR.
  • Nongame fishing permits and tags are required in addition to a valid South Carolina recreational fishing license, even for youth under 16, for using certain recreational devices:
    • Up to 1 trotline with a maximum of 50 hooks.
    • Not more than 50 set hooks.
    • Not more than 50 jugs.
    • Up to 2 traps.
    • 1 gill net no longer than 100 yards, or 3 gill nets, none exceeding 30 yards (excluding shad and herring).
    • Up to 2 eel pots.

Other Permissible Devices

  • With a valid South Carolina fishing license, certain devices can be used without additional tags or permits, including archery equipment, cast nets, crayfish traps (5 or less), gigs, hand grabbing, minnow seines, minnow traps, landing (dip) nets, and spears. However, this does not apply in Game Zone 1 and DNR-managed lakes.
  • Nongame fishing devices are prohibited in specific waters, and the maximum allowable devices per area are detailed in the Nongame Device Limits by Location.

Compliance and Regulations

  • A tag corresponding to the issued device must be attached, and the licensee must carry the permit and tag identification receipt while fishing.
  • Regulations stipulate that only 2 blue catfish over 32 inches are permitted for possession per person per day across all state waters, with a possession limit of 25.
  • Native freshwater mussels require a permit from SCDNR for harvesting, while non-native Asian clams (Corbicula) are exempted.
  • If game fish are inadvertently caught by nongame fishing devices, they must be promptly released.
  • Federal laws mandate that passenger-for-hire services operating on U.S. navigable waters adhere to minimum safety and personnel licensing regulations. Vessels carrying paying passengers must be manned by a USCG Licensed/USCG Vessel Inspected Captain. For further details, contact USCG at 1-888-427-5662.

Shad/Herring Regulations


Shad and herring, including American and hickory shad and blueback herring, are subject to specific regulations governing their recreational and commercial harvesting.

Recreational Harvesting

  • To engage in recreational shad fishing using hook and line, cast net, or skimbow net in state waters, individuals must possess the appropriate freshwater or saltwater recreational fishing license.
  • American shad and herring can be harvested by skimbow net from February through April.
  • Recreational harvest limits are set at 10 shad per person per day or 1 US bushel of herring per person per day, except in the Santee River and Rediversion Canal where the limit is 20 shad per person per day.
  • Gill nets are permitted for commercial harvesting of American shad and herring. However, recreational fishermen using gill nets must adhere to recreational harvest limits.

Prohibited Practices

  • It is illegal to possess saltwater or freshwater game fish or fishing tackle capable of catching such fish while attempting to harvest shad or herring with gillnets.
  • Taking shad by hook and line or skimbow net is prohibited while in possession of any commercial fishing equipment for harvesting shad or herring.

Area Closures

  • The Savannah River seaward of the Augusta Diversion Dam is closed to herring fishing.
  • All rivers in the Winyah Bay River System, except for the Great Pee Dee River, are closed to herring fishing.
  • Herring fishing within one hundred feet of the fish lift exit channel at St. Stephens Powerhouse is prohibited.

Commercial Fishing Regulations

Licensing Requirements

  • A commercial freshwater fishing license is required for individuals who intend to:
    • Harvest nongame fish from public waters using any method.
    • Sell or offer for sale nongame fish.
  • Additionally, individuals must possess a commercial license to use the following nongame fishing devices:
    • 6 or more crayfish traps.
    • 3 or more eel pots.
    • 2 or more hoop nets.
    • 3 or more traps.
    • 2 or more trotlines or fish trotlines with more than 50 hooks.
    • 4 or more gill nets (or a total of more than 100 yards of net). (Note: Shad and herring harvesting follows separate regulations.)
  • Strikers, who assist licensed commercial freshwater fishermen under immediate supervision, are exempt from holding a commercial or recreational freshwater fishing license.


  • The possession limit for blue catfish is set at 2 fish over 32 inches, with a maximum possession of 25 per person per day.

Resident Commercial Saltwater Fishing License

  • To obtain a resident commercial saltwater fishing license, individuals must have been residents of South Carolina for the past 365 consecutive days.
  • Proof of residency must be provided to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) at the time of application.

Nongame Device Marking Regulations

Requirements for Markers

  • Trotlines, traps, eel pots, gill nets, and hoop nets used for nongame fishing must be marked with a white floating marker.
  • The marker must have a capacity of at least one quart but no more than one gallon.
  • It must be made of solid, buoyant material that remains afloat even if punctured or cracked.
  • Acceptable materials for constructing the floating marker include plastic, PVC spongex, plastic foam, or cork.
  • Hollow buoys or floats, such as plastic, metal, or glass bottles or jugs, are not permitted, except for specifically designed buoys approved by SCDNR.

Marker Identification

  • The owner's name and SCDNR customer identification number must be clearly visible on each white floating marker.
  • Both commercial and recreational fishermen are obligated to adhere to these marking regulations.

Trotline Marking Specifications

  • A trotline must be marked on both ends for identification.
  • Commercial trotlines must be marked at intervals of every 50 hooks, with each interval float colored 'International Orange'.
  • If a commercial trotline utilizes fifty or fewer hooks, it must be marked at intervals of 25 hooks.
  • Recreational trotlines must be marked at intervals of every 25 hooks.

Bait Regulations for Nongame Fishing Devices

Trotlines, Set Hooks, and Jugs

  • No game fish, except bream (excluding redbreast) cut into two or more equal parts, may be used as bait with trotlines, set hooks, and jugs.
  • Acceptable baits include soap, doughballs, shrimp, grapes, or meat scraps, provided they do not contain insects, worms, or other invertebrates.

Specific River Regulations

  • On the Edisto, Black, Sampit, Great Pee Dee, Little Pee Dee, Lumber, Lynches, and Waccamaw Rivers, live nongame fish and bream (excluding redbreast) are permitted with single-barbed set hooks.
    • The set hooks must have a shank-to-point gap of fifteen-sixteenths inches or greater.
  • Similarly, on the Black, Great Pee Dee, Little Pee Dee, Lumber, Lynches, and Waccamaw Rivers, live nongame fish and bream (excluding redbreast) may be used on trotlines with a maximum of 20 hooks.
    • The hooks must have a shank-to-point gap of fifteen-sixteenths inches or greater.

Creel Limit Restrictions

  • While fishing with nongame devices on these specified rivers, individuals are prohibited from possessing more than the lawful creel limit of bream.

General Bait Usage

  • There are no bait restrictions for traps or eel pots, except that game fish or parts thereof cannot be used as bait.
  • Intentional release of any aquatic species, including bait, into state waters without an SCDNR permit is unlawful, except for bait lost during fishing activities.

Nonindigenous Fish as Bait

  • Nonindigenous fish not established in the water body being fished cannot be used as bait, except for fathead minnows, golden shiners, and goldfish (including ‘black salties’).
  • Only bream (excluding redbreast) are permitted as bait; however, trout may be used as bait only in specific waters, including Lakes Hartwell, Russell, Thurmond, Tugaloo, Yonah, Stevens Creek Reservoir, and the Savannah River. When using game fish as bait, they must be included in the daily creel limit.

Prohibited Areas for Nongame Fishing Devices

SCDNR State Managed Lakes

  • Nongame fishing devices, regardless of type, are strictly prohibited in SCDNR State Managed Lakes.

Game Zone 1

  • Nongame fishing devices are not permitted in Game Zone 1.

Prohibited Practices for Nongame Fishing

  • Possession or use of any device or gear designed or used to catch nongame fish not authorized by law is strictly prohibited on the freshwaters of this state.
  • Nongame fish may not be taken by explosives, electrical devices, poison, or any similar means.
  • Possession of game fish is prohibited while fishing with traps, trotlines, or other nongame fish devices, except for cast nets and landing nets.
  • It is unlawful for any person to tamper with, fish, or use another person's nongame fishing device or gear, or to take fish caught therein. Additionally, no fishing device should be used in a manner that creates a hazard to boating.
  • No trotlines, traps, or eel pots shall be placed within 200 yards of any permanent man-made structure on Lakes Marion and Moultrie. Furthermore, they are prohibited in the Diversion Canal connecting Lakes Marion and Moultrie, the Tailrace Canal, and the area known as the Borrow Pit (also known as "Bar Pit") in Clarendon County.
  • Nongame devices, such as set hooks, are not allowed to be attached or secured to any vegetation or structure on the Congaree National Park property bordering the Wateree or Congaree Rivers. For rules and regulations concerning the Congaree National Park, contact the National Park Service at 803-776-4396 or visit

Penalties for Violations

  • Confiscation of Property: Any individual charged with unlawfully fishing, using, or possessing a gill net or hoop net on any freshwater lake or reservoir shall face confiscation of their boat, motor, fishing gear, and fish.

  • Tampering with Fishing Devices:

    • Tampering with any nongame fishing device with the intent to damage or render it ineffective for catching fish carries penalties of:
      • A fine ranging from $100 to $200.
      • Imprisonment for up to 30 days.
    • Stealing a device or fish caught in the device incurs penalties of:
      • A fine ranging from $500 to $1,000.
      • Imprisonment for up to 6 months.
      • Both fine and imprisonment may apply.
  • Suspension of Fishing Privileges: Upon conviction of any commercial freshwater fisherman for illegal possession of game fish or engaging in the sale or trafficking of game fish, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) will suspend the individual's license or privilege to fish in the state for a period of one year.

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